October 29, 2013

Is it time for micropayment news paywalls?

Ken Doctor's piece on "superstar" journalists, stimulated by David Pogue leaving the New York Times for Yahoo (and coming off as a bit of a douche, per what Doctor assembled), following on the heels of Nate Silver also moving on, has restimulated my thinking here.

Per this old blog post, Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, has been bullish on the use of micropayments. And also per that post, at that time, PayPal made micropayments easier, so I know newspapers can do that, too.

Of course, this leads to "superstar" journalists, newspapers wanting more for them, but ... the worries of both newspapers and said journalists finding out they're not so well-read as thought.

I mean, that's part of what killed the New York Times' original paywall idea, Times Select. It was intended to primarily charge for columnists, who might soon find out they weren't worth what they thought they were.

But, why not do micropayments?

People set up RSS feeds for a particular person's blog; why not a particular person's news writing?

Per the Times Select debacle, the key issue, then, is setting the proper price point.

Of course, Pogue is headed to paywall-free Yahoo. And, being overpaid by Yahoo. Even if he's the core of a larger new tech section, it's an overpay. Per this story, Salon and Slate continue to lose money, and Huff Post pulled a reverse AOL by getting AOL to buy it. (Bezos took a pass on buying Slate as part of the WaPost takeover.)

Notice a commonlity? None of those folks listed after Yahoo have paywalls, either.

And, as much of a name as Glenn Greenwald is, Pierre Omidyar will likely be pounding monetary sand down a rat hole with him, too.

I mean, if you're investing in star-centered journalism, as we see online ad rates sink — call it clipping the coinage of the digital dimes, and the mobile nickels staying just that — why wouldn't you look at a micropayment system? You could set the bar low, and you could also mix it with a meter.

Yahoo could let you read David Pogue free three times a month, then charge 10 cents a pop for the next five, then 15 cents for the next five after that.

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